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Chemistry at Estrella Mountain

By Kelley MacDonald

The study of chemicals may seem like a tricky business, but enthusiasm for chemistry at Estrella Mountain Community College (EMCC) is going strong. Chemistry is the science of mixing chemicals and transforming materials into new things. Some chemistry students aspire to lofty goals, such as studying medicine or saving the ozone layer. Others simply want to get their Associate degree and need to take a science class. Either way, EMCC offers several chemistry courses to meet everyone’s needs.

There are several classes for science majors, including General Chemistry I and II (CHM151 & CHM152). Organic Chemistry (CHM235) provides an introduction to carbon-containing compounds. On the other hand, some students may want to take a chemistry class to see how they like the subject or may need to take it for the completion of their General Studies requirement. Fundamental Chemistry (CHM130) is a class for beginners who are not majoring in science.

“Chemistry has always been a puzzle,” said chemistry professor Levi Torrison. Torrison instructs many of the chemistry classes aimed at chemistry majors. He has been teaching at EMCC since 2006 and is a self-proclaimed “lab rat”.

Many students at EMCC don’t shy away from the strenuous work chemistry involves. In fact, they embrace it. Science major Sarah Vargas actually enjoys her time with her beaker and chemicals. “I like the fact that we get to experiment,” said Vargas. “Chemistry is great as long as you commit to it. It’s not easy, but who wants easy when it comes to school?”

These days, science majors enter some of the highest paid professions. According to, biochemistry ranked #2 in their “Top 15 Most Valuable College Majors”, being beaten only by biomedical engineering, which also would involve chemistry. Other career options for chemistry majors include being an environmental chemist, an important career with continuing environmental concerns going on around the world.

There is also the career of a material chemist, as well as various governmental jobs and work in the Petroleum industry. “The petroleum industry is huge!” expressed Torrison. “The Palo Verde Nuclear Power Plant nearby hires nuclear chemists and chemical engineers.” Torrison also added that nuclear chemistry is actually quite simple. Yeah, Torrison, sure it is!